The Harvard Cabin is owned and maintained by the Harvard University Mountaineering Club and serves as a base camp for ice climbers, backcountry skiers, and winter mountaineers. The Harvard Cabin is located below Huntington Ravine on the east side of Mount Washington. Following is some key information from the Harvard Cabin caretaker Rich Palatino: The cabin is open to the public from December 1 through March 31 each winter and accommodates 16 users per night. Space is available on a first come-first-serve basis and you can sign-up at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center. The Harvard register can be found upstairs in the trading post during business hours. After hours, the register is available downstairs in the pack-up room. Please review all instructions and guidelines during the registration process.
Fees: $15 a night to stay in the cabin; which includes full kitchen amenities, dishware, and cutlery. Fresh food is recommended. A wood stove is lit from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the purpose of drying wet gear. Sleeping bag and pad are also needed. If the cabin is full, there is also camping permitted outside the cabin ($10 per person, per night). Campers need to arrive fully prepared for winter camping, including stove and fuel.
For more information, see the Harvard Mountaineering Club website: www.harvardmountaineering.org/cabin.htm
A Gateway Into the Mountains
By Blake Keogh
It would be borderline disrespectful to try and give a worthy history of the Harvard Cabin in this quick post. Instead I advise readers to make the trek up the trail, head right at the fire road, and see if they can pass the Harvard entrance exam (hint: cheat sheet is written on the door). Upon entering Harvard you will be greeted by either Rich or Marcia….probably both….and promptly given a tour of the campus. Pay attention.
The first time I arrived at the cabin I knew I had found the piece of the mountaineering puzzle that had been missing since leaving the Pacific Northwest. The previous winter I had good days skiing and climbing in New England but had yet to find a community similar to the one I had become a part of in Washington and Idaho.
The cabin (nestled between two glacier cirques that hold arguably the best backcountry skiing and climbing terrain between here and Jackson Hole) serves as one of the few central locations on the East Coast where backcountry skiers and climbers can gather, stay warm, prepare a hot meal, and most importantly share stories of recent and distant adventures. For me it quickly became the epicenter of my backcountry experiences.
Since my first trip to Mount Washington, the cabin has provided full moon ski tours, limit pushing alpine snow and ice, and meals with world renowned athletes and first time adventurers alike. Moreover, the cabin itself has provided just as many stories as the impressive landscape it allows access to.
In apparent contradiction to the competitive zeal that exists within the climbing community, the cabin serves as a place to consciously interact with others, or ignore others and read, or take a nap, or settle into the pleather low-rider and simply watch as people stumble in, shake off the snow and cold, and begin hanging clothes for the following day’s adventure. Here, huddled below drying boot liners, socks, ice tools, rope, and fleece, I find my inexplicably feral connection with the mountains becomes enriched by the presence of others.
I am confused as to why this small dwelling hasn’t become more popular within the rapidly increasing population of technical backcountry travelers. Innumerable variables contribute to the relatively flat use (about 600 users per winter) of the cabin over the last ten years. However, I will conclude with some final thoughts for those seeking the depth of physical, intellectual, and interpersonal experience that time in the mountains often provides; go right at the fire road, kick snow off your boots before you enter, don’t light the wood stove until 4:00 pm, help out with the dishes, and give yourself enough time to fully enjoy the Harvard Cabin.